ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - Rondell White came to 2006 spring training advertised as the Twins' every-day designated hitter. He batted .351 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 57 exhibition at-bats.
"I remember saying to Torii [Hunter] on the last day of camp, 'I feel more like I'm hitting .150 than .350,' " White said. "Yes, I was able to do a little damage against some breaking balls, but I didn't feel quick ... like I could get to the fastball."
White's perception of his March hitting proved much more accurate than his numbers. There were many one-liners about the Twins as they staggered through the early weeks of the season, and most centered on White.
He batted .136 in April. He didn't have a home run and a mere 15 RBI by the middle of June. He went on the disabled list in mid-June, as the Twins were cranking up a 71-33 run to the finish in the AL Central.
The reason for the DL assignment was a stiff left shoulder. He had undergone surgery on that shoulder after his 2005 season ended in Detroit.
"I never want to be looked at as a whiner, but, honestly, the shoulder didn't feel good," he said. "It made me slower with the bat. So, I had to jump out to hit the fastball. And when you're jumping out, and it's not a fastball, you don't have a chance."
White went to Class AAA Rochester on a rehab assignment on June 30. There was speculation he would not be back with the Twins.
Then, Jason Kubel started limping around on bad knees, and that created Rondell's second chance. He was recalled July 17 and given a shot to play left field.
The contrast was stunning: He went from .182 with no homers and 15 RBI in 181 at-bats before Rochester, to .321 with seven homers and 23 RBI in 156 at-bats after Rochester.
"Playing left field rather than DHing was part of it, definitely, but it was more important that my shoulder felt better," White said. "I was able to stay inside with my swing and get to the fastball again."
At season's end, manager Ron Gardenhire told White that he wanted him back in 2007. General Manager Terry Ryan and White's agent finally reached a one-year deal on Dec. 18.
"It's around $2.6 [million], compared to $3.25 last season," White said. "I'm grateful it's that much. I just wanted to be back with the Twins.
"For me, at this point in my career, it's about winning. We have superstars here. Why wouldn't you do everything you can to be on a team with the Cy Young winner, the MVP, the batting champion, a closer who could be the Rolaids award winner, and the best center fielder in the game?"
This spring, White has two singles in nine at-bats, but you could see he was close Monday -- hitting a ball straight up in the air against Tampa Bay's J.P. Howell.
"On time, but just under it," White said. "I'll square one up soon."
A year ago, the Twins were saying White was headed for a good year because he would be a full-time DH and thus stay healthy. Now, they are saying he should have a good year because he's more comfortable playing left field than DHing.
So now injuries are back in the picture, right?
"I've had an above-average career that could've been way above average without the injuries," White said. "But it's not like I'm pulling a hamstring every time I run hard. It's been more bad luck than anything."
|Chicago Cubs - M. Garza||6:05 PM|
|Pittsburgh - W. Rodriguez|
|Detroit - M. Scherzer||6:05 PM|
|Cleveland - C. Kluber|
|NY Yankees - P. Hughes||6:05 PM|
|Baltimore - M. Gonzalez|
|Tampa Bay - A. Cobb||6:07 PM|
|Toronto - R. Ortiz|
|Cincinnati - M. Leake||6:10 PM|
|NY Mets - J. Niese|
|Philadelphia - T. Cloyd||6:10 PM|
|Miami - J. Fernandez|
|Minnesota - M. Pelfrey||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - T. Hudson|
|Oakland - D. Straily||7:05 PM|
|Texas - Y. Darvish|
|Los Angeles - Z. Greinke||7:10 PM|
|Milwaukee - H. Burgos|
|Boston - F. Doubront||7:10 PM|
|Chicago WSox - J. Quintana|
|Kansas City - W. Davis||7:10 PM|
|Houston - B. Norris|
|Arizona - I. Kennedy||7:40 PM|
|Colorado - J. Chacin|
|Seattle - A. Harang||9:05 PM|
|LA Angels - J. Williams|
|St. Louis - A. Wainwright||9:10 PM|
|San Diego - E. Volquez|
|Washington - S. Strasburg||9:15 PM|
|San Francisco - M. Cain|
|Los Angeles||9:00 PM|